Lakers offseason preview: What to do with Russell Westbrook, LeBron's extension and more

Lakers offseason preview: What to do with Russell Westbrook, LeBron's extension and more

Business

Lakers offseason preview: What to do with Russell Westbrook, LeBron's extension and more

- by

The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers season is effectively over.

A lot will be said about the decision-making from leadership over the next month or so with plenty of finger-pointing to go around. The media blitz could be reminiscent of the reporting about the Lakers following the 2018-19 season, except there likely won’t be a star acquisition to douse those flames.

Looking ahead, the Lakers’ path back to title contention with LeBron James and Anthony Davis anytime soon seems like a low probability scenario. For starters, both players will be three years removed from their 2019-20 championship season and have declined from being no-brainer Top 5 players since. Also, their durability has fallen off as both players have missed significant chunks of the last two seasons.

The Lakers may still have a chance as long as James and Davis are near the top of their powers, but the rest of the roster is filled with negative-to-neutral players at best. They are likely to part ways with Frank Vogel but coaching is the least of their problems. With such limited assets and spending power, it’s hard to see how they significantly retool the roster in the offseason.

What to do with Russell Westbrook

The first order of business for the Lakers is moving on from Russell Westbrook. His poor performance this season along with his $47 million salary for next year will make him one of the most negative value assets this offseason. Teams will naturally want an asset just to take him on, but the Lakers are severely limited in stuff to offer. The real question is what kind of concessions are the Lakers willing to make to get rid of him?

As discussed in December, there are two packages that stand out. One is the obvious swap for John Wall, which would simply give the Lakers a stylistic change. Such a deal probably wouldn’t require a first-round pick to get done and could potentially get done with a second-round pick or pick swap. The possibility of Westbrook giving back money in a subsequent buyout alone is a big enough incentive for Houston to entertain such a trade.

The other option is sending Westbrook into Oklahoma City’s cap space. The Thunder still have $31.65 million in space remaining through June 30 and can acquire Westbrook by just sending back Derrick Favors and an additional salary filler back to the Lakers. Such a deal could generate a trade exception north of $30 million, but would likely require at least one of the Lakers’ two first-round picks they’re allowed to trade this offseason.

If the Lakers were to package one or both of their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks with Westbrook, they’d ideally want to acquire good role players in return. For example, perhaps there is a deal with the Indiana Pacers where they can get two of Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, and Buddy Hield for that package. Or if the Utah Jazz were to blow things up, Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic could make some sense.

Teams dealing with the Lakers will try to squeeze them for both those first-round picks: one for the players they send back and another for taking on Westbrook. The Lakers could also look to shop around a trade package centered on Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn. The ideal scenario for them would be to trade Westbrook and a first-round pick in one deal and to trade Horton-Tucker and Nunn with the other first-round pick in a different deal.

The nuclear option would be to waive-and-stretch Westbrook. It would leave the Lakers with a $15.7 million dead cap hit over the next three seasons but that figure could decrease if Westbrook gives back money in a buyout. The main benefit of this is that it would open up the $10.35 million non-taxpayer and the $4 million bi-annual exception for them. They’d also likely be able to fill out the roster while avoiding the luxury tax. However, they would not be able to remove that dead cap hit over those three seasons for any reason.

LeBron’s extension

Starting on August 4, LeBron James will be eligible for a two year, $97.1 million extension that would keep him under contract through the 2024-25 season. This decision is consequential for the Lakers not just because of the obvious reason of keeping him long-term, but because of the future flexibility it takes away.

As of now the Lakers project to have over $60 million in cap space in 2023 with just Anthony Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker, and their 2023 first-round pick under contract. That figure could reach $70 million if Horton-Tucker declines his $11 million player option. The Lakers are in dire need of a reset and multiple role players to adequately deepen the roster and significant cap space could provide. James extending for his maximum allowable amount would eliminate their cap space possibilities.

Given the Lakers history of taking care of their stars, it seems like a good possibility that they will offer him the extension. He might not be in a rush to sign it in the offseason since he can sign it during the regular season, so he might as well see how the roster shakes out first. Not signing the extension could put a lot of pressure on the organization to mold the roster in a way James sees fit.

Filling out the rest of the roster

LeBron James dunks the ball

Assuming they continue to operate over the luxury tax, the Lakers will have the $6.4 million taxpayer mid-level exception as their largest means to upgrade the roster. They need to target the best player available with it, but there’s a possibility that they prioritize utilizing the exception to re-sign Malik Monk. Without it, the most they can offer Monk is a starting salary of $2.5 million with his Non Bird rights. It’s very possible they get outbid for Monk by a team offering him the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception projected at four years, $44.5 million.

After using their mid-level exception and making potential trades, the Lakers will be left with the veteran minimum to fill up the rest of the roster. Seeing how rostering 10 minimum players is not a recipe for success, any deal that liquidates Westbrook into several inexpensive role players is vital. They also have two small trade exceptions they could use to acquire inexpensive players.

2022-23 SALARY SITUATION

Guaranteed salaries: $145,029,186

Non-guaranteed salaries: $3,915,039

Total salary: $148,944,225

Luxury tax space: $200,018 over the $149 million luxury tax with just seven players

Exceptions:

Taxpayer Mid-level: $6,392,000

Marc Gasol trade exception: $2,692,991

Rajon Rondo trade exception: $1,669,178

Russell Westbrook

2022-23 salary: $47,063,478

Remaining salary guaranteed: $47,063,478

Additional notes: His $47 million salary is a player option that he will most likely exercise.

LeBron James

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

2022-23 salary: $44,474,988

Remaining salary guaranteed: $44,474,988

Additional notes: James becomes extension-eligible on August 4 for up to two years, $97,133,373. He is limited to that amount due to the Over-38 rule. He also has a 15 percent trade bonus that would be voided if traded.

Anthony Davis

2022-23 salary: $37,980,720

Remaining salary guaranteed: $121,800,240

Additional notes: Davis has a 15 percent trade bonus that would increase his salary to the $42.7 million maximum salary for players with 10 or more years of service.

Talen Horton-Tucker

2022-23 salary: $10,260,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $21,280,000

Additional notes: Horton-Tucker has a $11 million player option for the 2023-24 season.

Kendrick Nunn

2022-23 salary: $5,250,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $5,250,000

Additional notes: Nunn has a $5.25 million player option for 2022-23 that he will likely exercise given he missed the entire 2021-22 season.

Stanley Johnson

2022-23 salary: $2,351,521 (team option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $0

Austin Reaves

Avery Bradley, Golden State Warriors

2022-23 salary: $1,563,518

Remaining salary guaranteed: $0

Carmelo Anthony

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Trevor Ariza

Trevor Ariza, Los Angeles Lakers

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

DJ Augustin

DJ Augustin tries to advance against Dejounte Murray

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Kent Bazemore

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Avery Bradley

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Wayne Ellington

Wayne Ellington, Detroit Pistons

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Malik Monk

Malik Monk, Los Angeles Lakers

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Wenyen Gabriel

Cap hold: $1,616,044

Type of free agent: Non Bird

Mason Jones

Cap hold: $1,616,044

Type of free agent: Non Bird

, , ,

To leave a comment, you will need to Sign in or create an account if you already have an account. Typed comments will be lost if you are not signed in.
More HoopsHype